ICE BREAKERS PREVIEW VS. DANVILLE DASHERS
By Jared Tennant
PHOTO: Dee Hannum
Mentor Ice Breakers (13-28-0-3, 42 pts., 6th place) vs. Danville Dashers (13-29-2-0, 43 pts., 5th place)
The Mentor Ice Breakers are set to take on the Danville Dashers in another three-in-three weekend series beginning this Friday night at David S. Palmer Arena in Danville, Illinois. The series features one home game for the Ice Breakers, a Sunday afternoon contest at Mentor Civic Ice Arena.
WHEN/WHERE: Friday, March 8, 8:05 p.m. @ David S. Palmer Arena (Danville, IL)
Saturday, March 9, 8:05 p.m. @ David S. Palmer Arena (Danville, IL)
Sunday, March 10, 4:35 p.m. @ Mentor Civic Ice Arena (Mentor, OH)
LIVE BROADCAST: TFMSports.com
Port Huron Prowlers
Mentor Ice Breakers
MENTOR ICE BREAKERS NOTES
It looks like things are finally coming together for the Ice Breakers. After taking two of three games against Danville a couple of weeks ago, Mentor claimed seven of nine possible points in last weekend’s three-game series against Watertown. The Ice Breakers nearly had a perfect weekend but lost in overtime on Saturday after blowing a 5-4 lead with less than 10 minutes left in the third period.
The Breakers are now only one point behind fifth-place Danville and have a golden opportunity to leapfrog the Dashers and get out of the basement for the first time this season. Mentor is still 15 points out of the final playoff spot, but it is very much alive in the postseason hunt. The Ice Breakers can’t control how other teams play, but a solid showing over the final few weeks of the regular season could propel Mentor to a playoff appearance.
First things first, Mentor absolutely needs to pick up as many points as possible against Danville. The Dashers are coming off a hard-fought series against Elmira that saw them fail to gain any ground in the FHL standings, so they will be hungry for points. The Ice Breakers split a pair of games in Danville February 23-24, but that may not be good enough this time around. With a potential playoff berth on the line, Mentor needs to prove that it’s better than a Dashers club that has the FHL’s worst offense with 138 goals over 44 games (3.14 goals per game).
Forward Parker Moskal has been a huge addition to the Ice Breakers roster. The 21-year-old was acquired from Elmira and has made a massive impact in just three games with Mentor, scoring a pair of goals and dishing out five assists for seven points. Moskal has very limited pro experience, but he has often looked like a seasoned veteran during his brief stint with the Ice Breakers. Another player to watch this weekend is forward Matt Kadolph, who has an 11-9-20 scoring line over 27 games since being signed in mid-December. Kadolph had a monster series against Watertown with four goals and an assist.
Last Sunday, Mark Essery became the Ice Breakers’ first 20-goal scorer after finding the net twice in a 6-3 win over the Wolves. Essery is tied in points with Gordy Bonnel (12-24-36), and the duo has stepped up to the plate lately after not appearing on the scoresheet for a couple of weeks. Forward Steven Fowler has a pair of goals and three assists over his last two outings, including a dramatic shorthanded goal late in the game last Sunday that sent the Mentor Civic Ice Arena crowd into a frenzy. The Ice Breakers offense is deeper than it has been at any point in the season, and that has resulted in 26 goals over the last six games.
Netminders Derek Moser and John Sellie-Hanson have benefitted from a recent defensive resurgence. Despite losing a pair of key blueliners in Brody Duncan and Thomas McKinnon, it’s clear the Ice Breakers are playing some of their best hockey of the year on the defensive side. On February 23, Moser made 32 saves en route to his fourth shutout of the year and his second on the road, tying Christian Pavlas of Carolina for most in the FHL. Sellie-Hanson picked up two wins against the Wolves with a pair of strong outings, stopping 63 of the 70 shots he faced on the weekend (.900 save percentage).
Next weekend, the Ice Breakers will get to see just how far they’ve come with a pair of road games against Carolina, the top team in the FHL by a wide margin. For now, they need to focus on taking things one game at a time and shaking things up in the FHL standings with a strong performance against Danville this week.
DANVILLE DASHERS NOTES
The Dashers head into this weekend looking to snap a three-game losing streak and get revenge on an Ice Breakers club that took two of three the last time these teams matched up. Danville dropped all three of its games against Elmira last weekend, giving the Ice Breakers an opportunity to pass the Dashers in the standings this weekend.
Long-time Dashers forward Justin Brausen will be unavailable for all three games against Mentor after being hit with a five-game suspension as a result of his actions against in a 6-2 loss in Elmira last Saturday. Brausen has a team-leading 50 points (21-29-59) over 40 games, so it’s a significant loss. He has eight goals and seven assists over eight games against Mentor this season.
Forward Daniel Martin can be just as dangerous as Brausen, and he’s expected to be in the Dashers’ lineup. Martin has a 19-26-45 scoring line and is having a career year. Over his first two contests against the Ice Breakers, Martin exploded for four goals and three assists, including a hat trick in Danville’s 6-2 win back on November 2. In five matchups since then, he has not scored and logged only two assists.
Brandon Contratto (6-20-26) is averaging a team-high 1.1 points per game over 23 appearances. Additionally, veteran blueliner Dustin Henning (5-21-26), who served as the Dashers’ player-coach earlier this season, is always a threat to score, while rookie Fred Hein (31-12-25, 25 GP) has stood out as a talented scorer and played 13 SPHL games with the Evansville Thunderbolts earlier in the campaign.
Between the pipes, the Ice Breakers can expect to see Matt Kaludis – who has a 3.99 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage – for most if not all of this weekend’s series. Backup Matt Arnold has appeared in one game, stopping 28 of 34 shots in the Dashers’ 6-2 loss to the Ice Breakers on February 22.
AROUND THE FHL
The Carolina Thunderbirds got back to their winning ways with last weekend’s two-game sweep of Port Huron. Ice Breakers fans should be rooting for Carolina and Elmira to win all of their remaining games against Watertown, Port Huron, and Danville, the other three clubs vying for the third and fourth playoff spots.
Watertown’s Tyler Gjurich had a big series against Mentor and gave himself some breathing room at the top of the FHL scoring race with a 39-43-82 scoring line, five points ahead of Elmira’s Ahmed Mahfouz (27-50-77). It appears the race for the scoring title will be a two-man bout between Gjurich and Mahfouz, barring a hot stretch from Dalton Jay of Port Huron or Carolina’s duo of Jan Salak and Josh Pietrantonio.
It was announced on Wednesday that Elmira has officially set the FHL’s single-season attendance record, surpassing Carolina’s mark of 66,204 fans. Oddly enough, Carolina has also broken that record and has drawn a total of 72,636 fans this season, although it has played five more home games than Elmira. It will be interesting to see which team ultimately sets the new single-season attendance record over the next few weeks.
The Ice Breakers will travel to Winston-Salem, North Carolina, for a two-game matchup against the Thunderbirds next Friday and Saturday before hosting Port Huron in a pair of games March 22-23 and finishing out the series against the Prowlers on March 24 in Michigan.
The Ice Breakers, proud members of the Federal Hockey League, are in their inaugural season. Single-game tickets and ticket packages are available 24/7 online at mentoricebreakers.com/tickets. They can also be purchased at the box office prior to every home game or by calling (440) 290-8502.